Business & GA

Swiss Pioneer Pursues End-to-End Electric Aircraft Power

By James T. McKenna | April 18, 2017

H55 aEro1

Photo courtesy of H55

The Swiss businessman and pilot whose electric-powered aircraft circumnavigated the globe last year has formed a new company to manage that option’s potential through the entire propulsion chain, from energy source to thrust, pilot interfaces and control systems.

Citing the promise of electric propulsion to make air transport "cleaner, quieter, safer and more affordable,” André Borschberg has co-founded H55 to “develop and leverage the potential of electric propulsion in the world of aviation.”

At the turn-of-the-century, he co-founded the Solar Impulse project to develop an electric-powered, fixed-wing aircraft with famous Swiss balloonist Bertrand Piccard. The project built two aircraft, the second of which the pair took turns flying around the world last year. The single-seat airplane departed Abu Dhabi in March 2015 and returned there in July 2016. (The flight was delayed more than nine months when the Solar Impulse 2 suffered thermal damage and had to be replaced and the aircraft flight tested.)

In announcing the new company, Borschberg said, “Electric air transport will undoubtedly disrupt the aviation industry,” adding that when he got involved with Solar Impulse 15 years ago, “electric propulsion was anecdotal. Today it is a major development path of every large aeronautical organization” and is attracting many start-ups and new players. What is science fiction today will be the reality of tomorrow.”

He said H55 has built an electric demonstrator aircraft, aEro1, that has flown more than 50 hours and has a battery endurance of more than 1 hour.

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